Psalm 85


In this psalm we find the psalmist praising God with thanksgiving and asking God to revive His people once again. Most commentators believe the historical setting of this psalm was probably when the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity in 536 B.C. Psalm 126 / Nehemiah 1:3 / Haggai 1:6-11 / Haggia 2:15-19.


‘For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding about the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this was written for the director of music. Some commentators believe that ‘director or music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

The sons of Korah were Levites, from the family of Kohath, who by the time of David, served in the musical aspect of the temple worship, 1 Chronicles 9:19 / 1 Chronicles 26:1 / 1 Chronicles 26:19 / 2 Chronicles 20:19. It was David who originally organised the temple singers, 1 Chronicles 15:17 / 1 Chronicles 16:41-42 / 1 Chronicles 25:4-5.

Korah is probably most famous for his lead in the rebellion against Moses during the wilderness days of the Exodus, Numbers 16 / Jude 11. God judged Korah and his leaders and they all died, but the sons of Korah remained, Numbers 26:9-11. It’s possible they were so grateful for this mercy that they became prominent in Israel for praising God.

‘You, LORD, showed favour to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.’ Psalm 85:1-3

The psalmist begins by reminding us that God showed favour in the land of Israel, Psalm 24:1, and it was God who restored the fortunes of Jacob.

The northern kingdom of Israel was taken into Assyrian captivity in 722/21 B.C. and the southern kingdom in 586 B.C. A remnant of all twelve tribes of Israel returned to the promised land when Cyrus of Persia allowed the initial group of captives to return in 536 B.C.

It was during this time when God forgave Israel of their iniquities and sins, Psalm 32:5. Because of Israel’s apostasy, Israel had been taken into captivity, 1 Chronicles 9:1, but while they were in captivity, they repented and so, God allowed them to return.

Some believe that forgiving their iniquities and the covering of their sins was pointing forward to the Christ, Hebrews 7:27 / Hebrews 9:12 / Hebrews 10:10.

You may notice at the end of verse two, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate their time in captivity.

When Israel were taken into captivity they were feeling the effects of God’s wrath and anger, but now that they have returned to the land, the psalmist was grateful that God had turned aside from His wrath and anger.

‘Restore us again, God our Saviour, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation.’ Psalm 85:4-7

The psalmist now asks God their Saviour to restore His people again and put away His displeasure towards them. That is, the psalmist is asking God to continue in the restoration of His people, Psalm 80:3.

They ask God, if He will be angry with them forever? Will He prolong His anger through all generations? In light of the fact they have just thanked God for setting aside His anger and wrath, the psalmist once again, is asking God to continue not to be angry with His people.

Notice the psalmist asks God to revive His people again, this tells us that revival comes from God but must be sought by His people. When God’s people are revived, it’s certainly a time of rejoicing, Acts 8:8. Revival involves seeking God’s unfailing love and the result will be salvation, Jonah 2:9.

‘I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly. Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.’ Psalm 85:8-13

The psalmist says that revival also involves listening to God’s Word and listening to His promises, Haggai 2:7 / Haggai 2:9. It’s God who promises peace to His people, his faithful servants, but they must be humble and repentant, they mustn’t turn to folly but to God.

Salvation is promised to those who humbly fear the Lord, and as God draws near to His people, glory will live in the land. In God’s salvation, love and faithfulness come together, some translations use the words, mercy and truth, John 1:14 / John 1:17, righteousness and peace kiss each other, that is, they become best friends, Isaiah 53:5-6.

When God’s love and faithfulness unite for the benefit of man, and man lives in righteousness and peace, the result is the restoration of joy among the people of God. In God’s salvation, faithfulness is described as coming from the earth and righteousness is described as looking down from heaven, Romans 8:21.

When God brings salvation to His people, He will give them everything they need, even the land will produce it’s harvest, Psalm 67:6.

Notice that righteousness goes before Him, this has to be a reference to the Christ who is the righteousness of God, Jeremiah 33:15 / 1 Corinthians 1:30. It is Christ, whose footsteps we must follow in, 1 Peter 2:21.


The psalmist prayed that God would send a revival to His people, but for that to happen, there were terms and conditions which needed to be met by God’s people.

Revival is a ‘time of refreshing’ that comes from the Lord, Acts 3:19, and wakes His people back up, and rekindles the fire of the Holy Spirit in our souls. But before God will awake His people again, there are terms and conditions which must be met.

Solomon has just dedicated the temple and in his dedication he has prayed to God, 2 Chronicles 6:12-39. In 2 Chronicles 7:11-13, God answers His prayer, but notice the terms and conditions of the answered prayer, in the next verse, ‘if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.’ 2 Chronicles 7:14.

God says He’s looking for people to humble themselves, He’s looking for people to pray and seek His face and He’s looking for people to turn from their wicked ways. That’s what God is looking for when He returns to His people. But what stops that from happening?

If the first thing that God is looking for is for people to humble themselves, then that means that God is looking for a sufficient spirit.

God wrote to the church in Laodicea and said, “You know, you’re so self-sufficient, you say I am rich, I don’t have a need for anything.” And God says, ‘what you don’t know is that you are wretched, poor, pitiful, blind and naked. Your problem is that you are so efficient and so ignorant of how empty you really are.’ Revelation 3:14-22

God said in Isaiah 57:15, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with me who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” In other words, God can only fill those who are not filled with themselves.

The second thing that hinders revival is a complacent heart, God says He will return when you pray and seek His face. Revival cannot be manufactured but it can be sought.

God says in Jeremiah 29:12-13, ‘Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’

God says in Isaiah 55:6-7 ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.’

The third thing that hinders revival is a disobedient walk, God is waiting for people to turn from their wicked ways. Acts 3:19 ‘Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord’.

In every revival in the Bible you can see a profound sense of God’s holiness accompanied by a thorough confessing of sin, 1 John 1:9 / James 5:16. Getting serious about sin and holiness is necessary for revival, 1 Peter 1:16.

Go To Psalm 86


"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"

Hebrews 13:5